Who Could Succeed Michael Cheika as Wallabies Head Coach?

Michael Cheika” (CC BY 2.0) by www.davidmolloyphotography.com

Australia are looking for a new national rugby union head coach after Michael Cheika stood down following the Wallabies’ quarter-final exit from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

They had previously gone two rounds further four years ago when runners-up to neighbours and rivals New Zealand. This feels like a watershed moment for rugby union in Australia, so who are some of the rumoured candidates to succeed Cheika as Wallabies boss?


Eddie Jones

England head coach Eddie Jones is a Tasmanian native and has, of course, coached his home country before. That four-year stint lasted from 2001 to 2005 and included a Tri-Nations championship and back-to-back Bledisloe Cup triumphs.

Jones took Australia to the 2003 Rugby World Cup final where the Wallabies lost to England and Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop goal. He has since coached Japan’s national team and took over the Red Rose at the end of 2015.

Consecutive Six Nations titles followed for England, who are the hot 4/5 outright favourites in the rugby union betting on the 2020 tournament with bet365. Jones is still tied to the RFU for another two years, however.

There are also believed to have been talks between Jones and English rugby chiefs about him staying on beyond his current deal that ends in 2021 – perhaps for the next Rugby World Cup in 2023. Australia face a fight on their hands to get their countryman back.

Yet rumours persist that the opportunity to take charge of the Wallabies again may be offered to him. Jones has spent so much of his coaching career in international rugby that it would foolish to discount a second spell.


Dave Rennie

Glasgow Warriors boss Dave Rennie is a highly regarded coach throughout the Pacific following stints with the Hurricanes, the All Blacks Under-20s and the Waikato Chiefs. He moved away from his native New Zealand for his current Scottish club job in 2017.

Rennie was also involved in regional setups within his homeland. The All Blacks are looking for a successor to long-serving but outgoing boss Steve Hansen. Any Australian interest in Rennie may depend on whether or not New Zealand want him as a replacement.

Comparisons have been made between this current situation and when the Wallabies brought Robbie Deans in as their first-ever Kiwi boss after he lost out on the All Blacks post to Graham Henry in 2007. If something similar happens here, then New Zealand’s loss could be Australia’s gain.


Scott Robertson

Another Kiwi candidate for the Wallabies could be Crusaders coach Scott Robertson. Part of the Christchurch club’s unbeaten 2002 campaign as a player, this former back-row forward spent several years with the Canterbury Rugby Union upon hanging up his boots.

A return to Crusaders was written in the stars, however, and – since taking up the role – Robertson has landed a hat-trick of Super Rugby titles. That winning mentality is what Australia need in their new boss.

Cheika leaves the Wallabies sixth in the world rugby rankings – only third best in the Southern Hemisphere behind global kings South Africa and the All Blacks. As Robertson has Australia’s Rugby Championship opposition well scouted from those recent Super Rugby successes, he brings plenty to the table.

Geelong Star Kelly Set for Bumper Pay Rise

It’s been quite an incredible season for Geelong, currently sitting atop the AFL ladder after a sensational campaign so far. One of the stars of this Cats side this season has been youngster Tim Kelly. In a team packed with players competing at the very top of their game, Kelly has stood out and proved just why so many AFL teams are monitoring the 24-year old’s situation at Geelong so closely. Nearing the end of the contract he signed when he was drafted 24th in 2017, Kelly couldn’t be in a stronger position in terms of leverage.

The Cats are certainly very keen on tying down the second-year professional, who is among the favourites in the race for the Brownlow Medal. Geelong proved their determination to keep Kelly last October when the midfielder requested to be traded home to Western Australia with West Coast, a request that was rejected by the Cats. With his contract coming to an end, though, the Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers are both expected to be making their own lucrative offers to the youngster.

It, therefore, came as little surprise when Cats list manager Stephen Wells confirmed the club have already made an offer to their standout star; reportedly a one-year deal with the option for a second season that would see his salary increase to a whopping $800,000 in 2020. While Kelly has made no secret over his desire to return west with his young family, the current form of the Cats will certainly be a factor behind the in-demand midfielder’s decision.

Sitting top of the AFL ladder after just one defeat in their opening 12 games, Geelong are firing on all cylinders and all their players look to be really enjoying their football, especially Kelly. Currently as short as 9/4 with the latest Aussie Rules betting odds to win this season’s Grand Final, ending the year with a premiership and Brownlow Medal may be enough to convince Kelly Geelong is where he needs to be at this point in his career. At 24, there is still plenty of time for the Perth native to return to WA later down the line.

Kelly has been a revelation since his arrival in Geelong, not missing an AFL game since being drafted and ending his rookie year by being named Best First-Year Player by his fellow professionals at the AFL Players’ Association Awards. This season, Kelly currently leads both the AFL Coaches’ Association Player of the Year award and Champion Data’s Brownlow predictor. This season, he’s kicked 10 goals, averaged 26.6 disposals and ranked among the league’s top 10 for clearances per game. In just his second year in the league, Kelly is on course to win the game’s most illustrious individual award.

Geelong Cats AFL Premiers 2009” (CC BY 2.0) by 

If it weren’t for his desire to return to WA, it’s hard to see a scenario where Kelly would want to leave this Geelong team. You only have to look at the midfielder’s face when he’s on the field this season to see a player really enjoying his work, which has then been evident by his brilliant performances.

Richmond Tigers Opening Victory Overshadowed by Rance’s Suspected ACL

The 2019 ACL season got underway on March 21st with an entertaining clash at the MCG in front of 85,000 spectators, where Richmond Tigers got their campaign off to a fantastic start with a 97-64 victory over Carlton Blues. The Yellow Blacks had to dig deep throughout the fourth quarter in order to fend off a potential Carlton comeback, but their victory was overshadowed by the sight of Alex Rance leaving the field in agony. The early prognosis doesn’t look good for the five-time all Australian, with a suspected ACL problem, and fans are nervously awaiting further updates about their star defender.

Richmond collected 72 points last season, finishing top of the AFL ladder, and Rance played a significant part in their success. They begin this campaign as $5.00 joint-favourites to win the 2019 Grand Final, and after kicking the first six goals of the game against Carlton, their place at the top of the Aussie Rules betting odds look wholly justified. Tom Lynch was superb on his AFL debut for the club, and had an immediate impact on the side. There were some questions surrounding his fitness ahead of their opener, but he looked perfectly at home in the yellow and black strip. There were also debuts for Noah Balta and midfielder Maverick Weller, with the latter adding his name to the scoresheet late in the game.

Despite plenty of positives, the game was overshadowed by Alex Rance’s nasty-looking injury. The talented full-back left the field in the third quarter clutching his knee, and looked visibly upset to be playing no further part in the game. He landed awkwardly on his right leg, and the normally durable defender was attended to by the medical team shortly before being helped off the pitch.

Although it has yet to be confirmed, the early signs point towards an anterior cruciate ligament issue, which would see him miss a large chunk of the 2019 season. Richmond have plenty of strength in depth, but it would be a significant blow for the Tigers if their star man was unable to play any further part this calendar year.

Rance’s injury prompted a sea change in the game, with Richmond having all the run and all the play prior to the stoppage. However, despite this unlikely momentum shift, the Melbourne club managed to battle back and secure a hard-fought victory.

The defender told reporters after the game that “the initial signs don’t look too good,” yet the 29-year-old Perth-born star managed to remain philosophical and upbeat. He added: “I’m in a great team, and I don’t have too much to be sad about.”

Richmond have been reasonably lucky with injuries over the last couple of seasons, but Rance’s potential ACL issue is a huge blow to the club’s Grand Final hopes. They face a tough Collingwood outfit at the MCG on March 28th, and will almost certainly be without the services of Rance.

Supporters will be pleased to see their side get off to a winning start, but that victory could come at a significant cost. Andrew Rance is one of the most gifted defenders in the game, and he will be sorely missed if he’s forced to spend the remainder of the 2019 campaign on the sidelines.

De Goey on target for hotly tipped Collingwood

On the back of a sensational, if surprising, season, Collingwood are heading into the new year being tipped by many to be one of the front runners in 2019. Having finished outside the top-10 for four seasons in a row, it came as something of an upset that the Magpies ended the regular season third in the AFL ladder. Collingwood weren’t finished there, however, recovering from a defeat to West Coast in the opening round of the finals and going on to reach the grand final. While they couldn’t get over that final hurdle, losing in the grand final to the Eagles, their success breathed new life into a club that hadn’t reached that stage since 2011.

One of the key factors behind Collingwood’s achievements last season was star-forward Jordan De Goey. The 22-year old established himself as one of the best players in the league last season, kicking a career-high 48 goals from 21 appearances to lead his side’s goalscoring charts. De Goey also averaged an impressive 16.1 disposals, highlighting the power and agility that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NAB AFL Draft. While it had been clear that De Goey was a real talent, last year showed just how important he is to this team.

A foot injury sustained during the back end of last year meant he started preseason on a modified schedule that saw him only return to full training in December after working his way back to fitness. De Goey’s comeback plans were dealt a blow, however, with the forward struck down by an illness that kept him out of Collingwood’s final training session of the year. The Pies were quick to come out to play down De Goey’s illness, though, insisting it wouldn’t have an impact on their star man’s plans to start the season for Collingwood.

For the Magpies, having De Goey fully fit and ready to go when the season gets underway is crucial to their hopes of getting off to a strong start. Currently priced at around 7/1 with the latest AFL betting odds, it’s clear to everyone that Collingwood are going to be one of the stronger teams this year. While they were heavily underrated and underestimated by opponents last season, it will be a very different story this time around. Head coach Nathan Buckley must take a lot of credit for Collingwood’s success in 2018, but he’ll be aware the pressure will be on his shoulders this time around.

De Goey, meanwhile, will be a man with a target on his back this season. Between the youngster Will Hoskin-Elliott, Josh Thomas and Jaidyn Stephenson, the team’s forwards contributed 166 goals between them last year – and it will be this forward line that will be tasked with scoring the goals that take the club to the finals. If they can replicate their prolific form this season, and the rest of the team can find the level of consistency they produced last year, this could end up being a truly memorable campaign for Collingwood.

Greene back and ready to fire GWS to AFL glory

Greater Western Sydney forward Toby Greene has made it clear he is fully fit and feeling healthier than he has at any point this season. The 24-year-old has been plagued by injuries this term, but Greene is back in contention for the upcoming Sydney derby elimination final after missing the Giants’ last three home and away rounds with a hamstring problem. GWS’s struggles in front of goal were made clear in the club’s defeats to Sydney and Melbourne, and having a man capable of scoring as consistently as Greene will be a huge boost heading into these finals.

Following a broken toe, a foot injury and his hamstring injury, Greene has only made seven appearances this season. The fact that the Giants have won six of those seven games highlights the forward’s importance to the club. For a team priced at around $10.00 in terms of the latest Aussie Rules betting odds, it’s clear there are a number of other teams in the finals expected to mount a much stronger challenge for the premiership than the Giants. That might not be the case if GWS can beat Sydney in their elimination final, and you may find the club being considered as a potential dark horse.

Greene’s return certainly helps the Giants’ chances. After kicking off the season with four goals in an 82-point win over the Western Bulldogs, shortly after recovering from a broken toe, a hamstring injury kept Greene out of action for the next two rounds before a foot issue saw the forward ruled out for ten games. He subsequently returned to the field for a run of four appearances before his most recent hamstring complaint. Despite his interrupted campaign, though, Greene has still managed to record 13 goals at an average of two a game.

The 2016 All-Australian representative and Giants best-and-fairest winner is one of a number of players set to return from injury in time for the finals for GSW, along with Brett Deledio, Ryan Griffen, Matt de Boer, Aidan Corr and Sam Taylor. The group had been missing for the Giants during the regular season’s closing rounds, and GWS’s back-to-back defeats against Sydney and Melbourne only go to highlight how much stronger this team are at full strength.

NAB CUP 2013 – Giants v Essendon” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Amy Mergard Photography + Design

Now set to compete in the AFL finals for a third straight season, the Giants will be hoping to use their experience from the past two years to go on and reach the grand final and potentially challenge for the premiership. Having finished in the top four for the past two years and reaching the preliminary finals, GWS’s seventh-place finish this season has earned them a sudden-death elimination final against city rivals Sydney. The Swans may well have the upper hand, having beaten the Giants only a couple of weeks before the two meet in the finals, although the pressure on the elimination final will be a lot different to when the two did battle in a match that had little relevance to the end-of-season shake-up.

Injuries hit Collingwood hard

Despite sitting second in the AFL ladder with the regular season entering its final third, Collingwood’s hopes of challenging for honours hasn’t been helped by yet more injuries hitting an already depleted roster. The latest names to join the ever-increasing casualty list are Will Hoskin-Elliot and Flynn Appleby. The duo picked up their injuries in the bruising victory over Essendon in round 16 – a result that saw the Pies extend their winning run to seven games. But despite their current form on the field, the club will be desperate to have a number of key players back from the treatment room in the run up to the finals.

In more promising news, Darcy Moore, Travis Varcoe and Josh Smith all made successful returns in the VFL having recovered from their respective hamstring injuries, although Nathan Buckley won’t want to throw the trio back into the fold until they are completely ready. Much could depend on how important the minor premiership is to the club. In the same way you take a chance when you play one of the slots at the likes of Joe Fortune, Buckley may feel he needs to spin the wheel in the hope of landing the jackpot and winning the 20th minor premiership in the Pies’ history.

It’s no secret that Collingwood have their sights set on the big one, and not rushing back those returning players could be crucial to the Magpies hopes of pushing the Richmonds, Port Adelaides and Sydney Swans of this world in the finals. Moore’s return to fitness is particularly important, with the team already missing Lynden Dunn following his season-ending knee injury, leaving a sizeable hole in their defence. But as we’ve seen this season, Collingwood have a roster capable of stepping up and filling in when needed, and that strength in depth has been one of the most impressive aspects of the campaign for the club.

St_Kilda_V_Collingwood_093” (CC BY 2.0) by Martin Turmine

 

That was evident in Collingwood’s 16-point win over an Essendon team that produced one of their most determined performances of the season. Chasing a place in the top eight, the Bombers pushed their opponents more than many would have expected from a 12th placed team against one sitting second in the table. It was the Collingwood stalwart Scott Pendlebury who popped up in the last quarter to see his side come out on top in a tough game. Another long-serving Pies man Steele Sidebottom also grabbed the headlines, scoring two goals in his 200th appearance for the club.

For Those in Their 20s” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by mikecogh

 

With a number of huge games coming up between now and the end of the season, the team will be under no illusions they haven’t achieved anything yet. A lot can happen over the course of seven games, and continuing this winning streak would play a significant role in just how short Collingwood will be with the bookies by the time the finals get underway. And if the majority of the players currently sidelined can get back on the field before the end of the season, Collingwood could well be the favourites with many to win their first premiership in eight years.

Tigers Looking Strong As They Get Ready to Begin Their Title Defence

Source: Richmond FC via Facebook.

The Richmond Tigers have finished their pre-season series and it looks as though they are going to start their title defence at full throttle. In their last game of the JLT Community Series, the Tigers belted the North Melbourne Kangaroos 19.14. (128) to 8.10. (50), in an impressive display that will have every other team in the premiership a little worried. Some thought that the Victorian club might have a bit of a grand final headache and possibly take a while to get back into the swing of things, but the performance against the Roos showed everyone that they are ready to rumble.

Coach Damien Hardwick’s men looked confident and composed on the field, and they will undoubtedly be one of the teams challenging for the flag in 2018. Currently the Adelaide Crows and the Sydney Swans are the early favourites at $6.00 according to Aussie Rules betting, with Richmond and the GWS Giants both back on $7.50. Geelong, Port Adelaide, Essendon and Melbourne are the bookmakers’ choice to take the final spots in the top eight.

In the victory against North Melbourne, the Tigers were ruthless at times, constantly applying pressure and forcing turnovers all across the park. Richmond had an incredible 12 separate goal kickers, which highlighted just how much of a team performance it was from the reigning champs. The commanding display will surely give Hardwick a bit of a selection conundrum ahead of the new season.

Source: The West Australian Sport via Facebook.

Shai Bolton looks to have locked in his role as Daniel Rioli’s replacement until he returns from injury, with the small forward taking 15 possessions and 1.3 goals after scoring three against the Bombers in their previous game. Apart from Bolton, the small forward line should remain relatively unchanged. However, the coach would have been pleased with youngster Callum Moore’s cameo appearance after he came on and kicked two goals, showing that he could be a viable backup option for Jack Riewoldt, if necessary this season.

Kane Lambert was impressive through the midfield with four goals, while Josh Caddy showed that he could be one of this year’s big improvers with another dynamic performance. The 25-year-old was heavily involved in the middle and made seven clearances from his 20 possessions. His decision making moving forward was excellent and he finished the contest with two goals.

In their other preseason game against Essendon, they were equally as devastating, thrashing the Bombers by a massive 87 points. Brownlow Medal winner Dustin Martin was back to his best, tallying up 24 disposals and scoring one goal. Although the Tigers were only missing three of their premiership winning 22, compared to Essendon who were far from full strength, the display from the premiers further cemented their place as one of the flag favourites for this season.

The Tigers seemed to have picked up right where they left off at the end of last year and will once again be a major threat in this year’s competition. It could even be the start of a golden era for the club, and opposition will have to be at their absolute best if they want any chance of overcoming them in 2018.

The Final Push to Secure a Top-Eight Finish

Source: AFL via Facebook

The season is drawing to a close and we’re starting to get a real good look at who the serious contenders are to take the flag. No one can deny how strong the Adelaide Crows are looking and even the GWS Giants. However, as we saw last year when the Western Bulldogs came in seventh and won the premiership, you can never write off the teams that finish a little bit further down the ladder.

So, who are the major dark horses that could upset the frontrunners in this season’s playoffs?

Funnily enough, the Bulldogs are hitting their stride at the perfect part of the season. They once again sit in seventh and have won four out of their last five matches. In another positive boost for the club, star midfielder and defender Easton Wood has avoided the knife and won’t require surgery on his hamstring, with the club confident he will be ready for finals football if they can secure a top-eight spot. The Doggies don’t have the easiest run home, though, facing the Giants, Port Adelaide and Hawthorne. They will have to be at their best if they have any chance of making it in.

The Port Adelaide Power are still in the mix, sitting in fifth, but with such a bad record against the top teams so far this year, it’s hard to see them making much of an impact come September. They have a relatively easy run home, though, coming up against Collingwood, the Gold Coast and the Bulldogs. With only four points separating fifth to 11th place, they will feel they probably need to win all three games.

Source: Sydney Swans via Facebook

What a season it has been for the sensational Sydney Swans! After their worst start to a season in 24 years and becoming the first team to go 0-6 after being in a Grand Final the previous season, they have managed to turn it all around and are now bombarding their way into finals contention. They are currently in seventh place and the latest AFL tips currently have 100% confidence in them defeating Fremantle this weekend, proving how much of a dangerous side people think they are. They have to face the Crows the week after, though, and that will be their real test before what should be an easy win for them against the hapless Carlton Blues considering the Swan’s form.

Sitting four points behind these three teams in eighth is the Essendon Bombers. They have the daunting task of taking on the Crows in their next game and will be praying for other results to go their way if they can’t manage an upset. Fortunately for the Dons, their two last matches come against opposition that they will be quite confident of overcoming. Firstly, they meet the Gold Coast Suns, then finish up the year at home to the Freemantle Dockers.

The West Coast Eagles, Melbourne Demons and Saint Kilda also sit on 40 points. These teams all have a mathematical chance of finishing in the eight also and it’s going to be a spectacularly tight finish to what has already been an amazing year of footy.

Sloane Leads the Crows to Victory in Top-of-the-Table Clash

On Friday night, AFL fans witnessed the much-anticipated game between the Adelaide Crows and the Geelong Cats. The Melbourne club had become a ‘bogey’ team for the Crows in recent times and the boys from South Australia were looking to break a five-game losing streak against them. The Crows 13.13 (91) defeated Geelong 10.10 (70) and maintained their grip at the top of the ladder.

Adelaide came out all guns blazing and dominated the match from the get-go. Their dominant performance in the first quarter set the tone for the rest of the game. Even though they were kept scoreless in the final quarter, they had done enough to secure the victory and give themselves some precious breathing space on top of the table. Adelaide is now the firm favourite, with the latest odds of 3.40 suggesting they will be the ones to lift the trophy in September.

Adelaide kicked five goals in the first quarter and their explosive football kept Geelong relatively quiet with the Cats only managing one goal. The Crows never really let them back into the game after that and it was always going to be a struggle to come back from the 22-point deficit at quarter-time.

They finished at half-time 29 points up and went into the third quarter leading by 37. The Cats put on a late charge inspired by Geelong veteran Harry Taylor in the final quarter, but unfortunately for the home fans, his three goals in five weren’t enough to snatch the points.

Rory Sloane was absolutely fantastic throughout the match. He kicked three goals, collected 27 disposals and laid seven tackles in an electrifying game. Considering he was heavily concussed just six days prior after receiving a heavy knock in Darwin against the Melbourne Demons, it was a remarkable performance. After a display like this from the powerful midfielder, it’s easy to see why his name gets mentioned when people start talking about the Brownlow Medal.

Richard Douglas was lethal in front of the sticks and finished the night with a career-high four goals and 20 disposals. Adelaide’s Sam Jacobs was also terrific, with his 32 hit-outs and 17 possessions providing Sloane with perfect service through the middle of the park. Hugh Greenwood, with 23 possessions, and the Crouch brothers all gave impressive displays, with Matt having 32 two touches and Brad 29.

There were some standouts for the Cats, though. Patrick Dangerfield had a prominent display, with 25 disposals, after recovering from a foot injury sustained last week, while Taylor almost rallied the troops for a comeback and kicked five goals overall.

The Crows are in prime position now for a top-two finish and a home final. They will be full of confidence going into their next match against the Collingwood Magpies, who have been struggling of late. The Cats will walk away and lick their wounds but will surely be ready by next week when they take on the Carlton Blues, in what coach Chris Scott will see as a must-win game.

Tigers Pushing for Top-Four Finish

Source: Richmond FC via Facebook

Richmond Tigers have continued to get their season back on track as they defeated the Carlton Blues at the MCG in front of 64,448 fans. In what should have been a relatively easy affair for the Tigers, they definitely didn’t do themselves any favours with their opening play and went in to the first break trailing by four points.

Richmond had a much better showing defensively in the second quarter, limiting Carlton to no goals and finding themselves just one behind. On the other hand, they were extremely wasteful in front of goal, taking only two goals and putting it wide for seven behinds.

Much to their supporters’ dismay, Richmond once again started to let Carlton back into the game during the third quarter. They did, however, manage to see out the rest of the game and seal the win. This came as a great relief to the players and the coach who were anticipating the final siren. As Tiger great Matthew Richardson said on 3AW: “It’s a good game if you like grinding games… I don’t.”

There were a few standouts for the boys in black and yellow with Jack Riewoldt kicking three goals and Dustin Martin grabbing 30 disposals. Kane Lambert and Shaun Grigg were equally as important, taking 26 disposals each.

The win, however, does see The Tigers cement their place in the top eight, bringing back the form that they enjoyed so much at the start of the season. This sees them take three wins out of their last four games and keeps them level on 32 points with the Sydney Swans, Melbourne Demons and Port Adelaide, who all recorded wins last weekend.

For their next fixture, the Tigers have the daunting task of heading to South Australia to take on Ken Hinkley’s Port. It’s a vital fixture for both, with Port at 73/100 and Richmond at 16/5 according to Oddschecker for a top-four finish, and that’s certainly something that will be on both coach’s minds.

Richmond will be hoping they can bring back the form that saw them start the season with five wins on the trot, and take points off some strong opposition. Port Adelaide will certainly be looking to put their stamp on this game having lost all four of their games against top-eight teams this season. It is shaping up to be a crucial match for both teams to keep up their momentum heading in to the second half of the season.